In an unprecedented climatic event, the western Indian state of Gujarat faced a series of lethal lightning strikes accompanied by intense thunderstorms and hailstorms, resulting in the deaths of at least 27 people.
The extreme weather, striking unusually out of season, occurred November 26-27, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake, including around 23 injuries.
Regions such as Morbi district were particularly affected, witnessing up to about six inches of rain in a span of 24 hours, far exceeding the average rainfall typical for November.
The storms wreaked havoc across more than 220 talukas (a group of several villages organized together for revenue purposes) in the state, severely impacting agriculture and livestock. The impact on animal life was notably severe, with over 70 cattle, buffalo, and other livestock killed. The extent of the damage extended beyond human casualties, reflecting the profound impact of such extreme weather events.
The unusual weather patterns caught the state off guard, especially considering Gujarat’s familiarity with rain-related calamities. The India Meteorological Department had forecast more rains in parts of Gujarat, indicating a trend of extreme weather. The scale of the disaster was such that the most affected district, Banaskantha, alone reported 19 fatalities. Additionally, two individuals lost their lives due to a structural collapse directly associated with the storm.
In response to the crisis, Gujarat Agriculture Minister Raghavij Patel announced an impending survey to assess the extent of damage, intending to provide adequate compensation to those affected. Union Home Minister Amit Shah expressed his condolences for the loss of life, emphasizing the urgency of recovery efforts for the injured.
These incidents highlight the broader context of India’s increasing vulnerability to extreme weather events. According to experts, climate change is altering monsoon patterns, leading to more frequent and intense weather phenomena like these unseasonal storms.
This tragic event is not isolated to Gujarat alone and affected other parts of India as well. Several other parts of India also experienced heavy rainfall. In the nation’s capital, New Delhi, heavy rain and lightning caused disruptions, leading to the diversion of at least 16 flights. The southern states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala were similarly affected by heavy rains over the same weekend.
Parts of Gujarat received an extraordinary 6.6 inches of rain in just over 24 hours, disrupting the normal rhythm of life and agriculture. The sudden and severe weather changes have raised concerns about the preparedness of various regions to handle such extreme events.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau, the annual average of deaths from lightning strikes in the country from 2017 to 2021 was 49. Scientists have warned that rising global temperatures are leading to more frequent and severe weather phenomena, including lightning strikes and flash floods.
This situation underscores the urgent need for enhanced weather forecasting systems and better disaster management protocols to mitigate the risks and damages caused by such unpredictable weather patterns. From a broader perspective, these incidents add to the growing list of extreme weather events striking different parts of India, from intense heatwaves to severe floods, all pointing toward the escalating impact of climate change on the subcontinent. The challenge now lies in adopting more robust climate-resilient strategies and infrastructure to safeguard against the increasing unpredictability of weather phenomena.
As Gujarat recovers from this calamity, the focus shifts to assessing the full extent of the damage, providing support to the affected families, and reinforcing the state’s preparedness against future climatic extremes.